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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Best Choice: The SAHM vs. Working Mom Debate

Yesterday as I was reading a short blurb on Dr. Laura's blog, I was led to view a few clips from Anderson Cooper's recent show that featured a debate between working and stay-at-home moms. The question at hand was whether stay-at-home or working moms were happier. Apparently word on the street is that working moms are happier than us stay-at-home mamas. (Darn - I missed that memo!) I did not get to see the whole show, only a few of the clips which you can see here. What I did see was that a couple of the working moms labeled the SAHM's as lazy. Irritating (to say the least. . .)

I have always been open and outspoken about my opinions on this topic. My sophomore year of high school, my honors English class received the assignment to write a research paper on any debatable topic of our choice. After writing our paper, we had to present our findings with our classmates in a speech and respond to opposition in a questions and answer session. My stance and topic? Pro traditional family structure - moms should stay at home with their children. You can imagine that this topic lit a fire under the bellies of many of my classmates. I remember one of my classmates saying in a sort of exasperation, "But Jami, you're so intelligent! You could do so much with your life! Why would you want to be a mom?!" The fact that that question was being asked at all told me more about the successful brainwashing our psychotic individualistic/materialistic/feminist society has done than anything else. Because we all know that we don't need any intelligent moms devoting the majority of their time and energy to raising up the future generations . . . Yes, I realize how fair and objective this post is coming across to everyone. ;)

Let me be fair and acknowledge the other side here too. I have friends in both camps - full-time and part-time working moms and stay-at-home moms. Even some single mamas. And my heart goes out to the moms who wish to stay home but cannot. I understand that some moms work outside the home by choice and they are happy doing so. I had an amazing professor at BYU who worked - obviously - and had quite a large family. When I was at a crossroads of deciding whether or not to start my family and/or go to grad school, she talked with me in length about her spiritual journey of choosing to pursue her PhD and of choosing to be in the workforce. In telling her story she was calm, happy and spiritually reassured of her decisions. Her children are turning out to be great, productive, intelligent, happy members of society. From all outward appearances, it seems she has made the best choice for her situation, but most importantly - that she chose what God wanted her to do. Even though it was a choice against the grain - in my faith's culture, especially. Yes, I can appreciate and sympathize with the exceptions. Though at the end of the day, I am not the judge of each individual or her choice.

Ultimately, everyone has to make their own decisions for their own family. I believe it is possible for two different families to take different paths with their child-rearing decisions and both be in line with what God wants them to do. Though, I cringe every time I hear about how "all choices are equal" as some cry. No. All choices are NOT equal. Some people simply don't make the best decisions for themselves or their families. (I feel silly even feeling like I need to write that down.)

I realize there are exceptions to the rule, but my overarching belief on the topic of SAH motherhood is this: I believe that as a whole, more marriages would be successful, and fewer children would get in to trouble if families made the decision and sacrifices for moms to stay home with their children. I respect the right for women to choose - it's a good thing we have agency and choices and go to school and work and on and on. It's great in fact! I love that I have my undergraduate degree, and that I had a few years of true me time before I became a mother myself. But for families, for society, my opinion has always been that - loving, engaged, and spiritually in-tune, quantity-time stay-at-home motherhood is almost unequivocally the best choice. Here's how I figure.

My Guiding principles/common sense on the Stay-at-home vs. Working Mom Debate:
  • Happy Mom = Happy Baby. Sure. Just remember that the things that ultimately bring the most self-fulfillment in life require the most selflessness.
  • We love those we serve. We serve those we love.
  • Not all choices are equal. Choosing God's will is the best choice above all other choices. If we are in line with His will, we should feel peace about our choice, whatever that may be. If peace isn't there, maybe it is time to reassess.
  • Supermoms! are a myth. You cannot give 110% to everything, no matter how much you wish you could. We are all given the same amount of time each day. Energy and time are like priority votes. We can tell a lot about who we are and what we value by how we spend our time and energy. Spending should be as consistent with our priorities as possible.
  • Quantity vs. Quality time argument: the most beautiful quality moments with children are sporadic and more scarce than abundant. It takes quantity time to be able to recognize the quality moments and energy to fully be there to appreciate them.  
  • Common sense: Moms know, cuddle, teach, and love their babies better than their hired help ever could. Babies love to be held, cuddled, taught and loved by their moms best.
  • Children only grow up once. Whether you are there (to see, experience, love, endure, connect, treasure, capture, remember, record, share, contribute, understand . . .) or not. 
So, you've read what I think, but what do you think? Are all choices equal in the mom debate? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why "The Talk" is a Dumb Idea

I was visiting my local zoo with my son a week ago and encountered an interesting display. As I was leaving the aviary I heard a load sort of moaning sound. I looked around confused only to see two other mothers with two little children each hurrying their children away from the pen of two huge Galapagos tortoises that were mating! I laughed, and said something like, "Not ready for that conversation yet?" The one was too busy to acknowledge my comment as she and her children scurried away from the passionate (and loud!) scene. The other mother and I encountered each other again - but this time at the Otter exhibit where the two playful otters were also mating in their little pool. She said, "What kind of zoo is this?!" I laughed. She laughed. The children had no idea what was going on. I share this story to lead into the dominant question for this post today: when, how, and to what extent should we talk with our children about sex? Which opportunities do we take and which ones do we forgo in establishing that open communication about such a delicate subject?
Did you know that, "Each year about one million teenage girls become pregnant in the United States and three million teens get a sexually transmitted disease." - American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

"Although only 13% of teens have ever had vaginal sex by age 15, sexual activity is common by the late teen years. By their 19th birthday, seven in 10 teens of both sexes have had intercourse." - Guttmacher Institute.

Are these statistics as disheartening to you as they are to me? If you really want to get depressed about the state of teenagers ability to make good decisions for themselves, just take a look at this article from the New York Times. Apparently, a majority of young adults do not know what is or isn't moral anymore these days.

What should we do about this? We've got to do so many things, but as far as sex goes - my proposal is to ditch "The Talk." The idea in our society, that about the time our children's hormones begin to rage we sit them down on the couch and explain the "birds and the bees" in one short awkward sitting is horrendous. You know what else I believe is ridiculous? The idea that parents often leave this important discussion to be taught in public health courses, (or perhaps have their children opt out of the sex ed lectures all together) - and consequently expect that their children have been taught all they need to know with regards to this sensitive subject. I believe that teenage pregnancy rates, STD rates, abortion rates, and teenage sexual activity rates are so high mostly because of the way we are teaching this topic with our children. Like the moms who hurried their young children away from the mating tortoises, too many parents quickly distract their children or put up walls rather than answer their children's honest questions about sex, their bodies, and how they work. Not to mention the moral reasoning behind the mechanics.

To be effective in communicating this important issue with our children, we should not simply leave this to the schools, or the television set, or the Victoria's Secret storefront display. Nor should we condense it down into one awkward sitting. Instead, we should have continuous, open, honest, and frank discussions. Embarrassment surrounding this topic is learned from hurried, tight-lipped, and uncomfortable, inaccurate/fuzzy responses from parents to children. No, our children do not need to be told every detail from the get go, but they should be told a little something each time they ask. They should also be educated about issues they will be facing several years before they encounter them. I heard once about a rule of five - think about where your child will be in five years and when they will need to know by that time. Work towards preparing them for that. Finally, parents should teach this topic according to their own personal moral and religious tenants. Discussions about sex should not merely be about anatomy and physiological functions and statistics - they need to also include direction about right and wrong, personal responsibility, integrity, as well as the child's relationship with God and others to truly be effective.

What do you think about "the talk"? What and when do we discuss this issue with our children? What resources, if any, would you like to share?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Honor at the Box Office?

Have you seen the movie trailer for "Courageous?"

It will be in theaters September 30th. It is about a group of fathers who come together to make a pact to be the best fathers they can be. You can watch the trailer at this link.

My husband (who is also a very attentive father to our son) deemed the trailer as "corny." Corny or not, this is the kind of message I think our society needs right now. It's certainly a good place to start anyways.

I can admit that the Evangelical tone could be a turnoff for many. But, when the vast majority of films applaud immorality and self-centered living, this movie seems a breath of fresh air. Too many films portray men as successful or attractive based on their skill in the bedroom with women they have made no real, legal, binding commitment to. This movie on the other hand, seems to be promoting not only loyalty to spouses, but more specifically to the children who come from those bonds. Instead of glamorizing cohabitation, broken families, and lusty individuals, let's put our attention where it should be - on protecting and supporting the family! We don't get out to the movie theater very often, but I think this may be one we need to support at the box office - if for no other reason than to say, "We need more films like this one."

What do you think of this film? Would you support a film like this? "Too corny" for your taste?

Friday, September 2, 2011

What's killing the nuclear family?

Did you know that in the United States, 45% of children are born out of wedlock? And more than 40% of children will spend some time in a cohabitating household? Those figures make me uneasy. Too many of us are not providing the best - the "gold standard" (as Amy Wax describes the nuclear family in this paper) - for our children! But, why? I have long since held these views on my own, but Amy Wax, a Law professor at Penn describes the reasons for these declines in nuclear family structure with the statistical knowledge/academic papers to back them up.

What are the two top reasons for the disintegration of the nuclear family?

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Some blame economics, because marriage is more prevalent among the richer more educated segments of the population. Amy Wax doesn't believe not having wealth is the cause for the decline, rather she blames culture. She says marriage rates were much higher in the past when families were living on much lower incomes compared to what we live on today. I agree. I believe the influence to marry is more cultural than economic. I think social/cultural attitudes do influence people to believe they have to have "all their ducks in a row," so to speak, before they marry and have children. And, in my opinion that should not be the case.

I'm not suggesting that couples not plan to be financially responsible for their children - that is important too! But, I think we go too far in what we believe are necessities for our children. A child having to wear clothing from a thrift store on occasion or having fewer toys would be much less harmful than the other increased risks of outcomes we see from children coming from homes where marriages or relationships have failed. Namely, psychological distress from not knowing where they belong, lower high school graduation rates, higher teen pregnancy rates, higher crime rates, etc.

But I digress. There will be plenty more posts on this blog about why the decline of the nuclear family is a problem as well as suggestions on how we can combat this phenomenon. This post is merely seeking to address the WHY of the problem(s). Because if we know what the roots are, we can take down the tree.

Do you agree? What do you think is(are) the biggest cause(s) for the decline of the nuclear family?

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